If the hallmark of renewable technology is its ability to harness the earth’s forces in new and imaginative ways, then one recent innovation is really riding a wave.
The Oslo, Norway-based risk management company, DNV, has announced the development of a new concept that will take advantage of the vast solar capacity of the earth’s oceans.
SUNdy is a large-scale, offshore, floating solar field concept. It’s core feature is a hexagonal array composed of thin-film solar panels that are flexible and lighter than the traditional rigid glass-based solar modules. The construction incorporates a tension-only design. Tensile forces from a lengthy spread mooring hold the structure together beneath the surface. This allows the arrays to undulate with the ocean’s surface. Resembling a spider web, the structure yields to the waves but is capable of withstanding considerable loads acting on it.
The design is efficient and easy to assemble. The prefabricated sections allow for large-scale manufacturing and streamlined assembly offshore. A cable grid provides for maintenance access in the form of floating gangways.
While the concept incorporates flexibility and the vastness of the oceans to harness the sun, it also uses a cumulative macro construction to generate maximum power. Each panel has a generating capacity of 560 watts. The hexagonal arrays containing these panels are clustered into larger solar islands the size of a football stadium. With a combined total of 4,200 panels, the islands can generate 2 megawatts (MW) of power. Multiple islands are then connected together into one farm, creating a solar field of 50 MW or more, enough electricity for 30,000 homes.
On a micro level, arrays within the farm are divided into electrical zones feeding electricity produced into two main switches that collect the power for voltage step-up at a central transformer. From the central island, 30-kilovolt transmission lines connect, tying the other islands in series to form a closed loop. The lines continue to an on-shore substation, where it is connected to the grid.